November 7, 2005

Stingray

This happened recently. We were in Cherating on holiday with friends, hotel on a beach. It wasn’t unusual to see the beach unused during monsoon. After a stroll, friends and I decided to race and reach a couple of boulders on the west end. The four of us nearly did, before I stopped, as my feet began to hurt from the unpleasant marine growth underwater. The other three continued. Before long, one of them felt a sting, followed by a large gash across the right foot’s artery, and he began bleeding profusely. A couple of bystanders offered some clean water and paper napkins before asking, “Stingray?”

The bleeding slowed-down after a while, but he was in terrible pain. One of us rushed back to check medical facilities at the hotel, while the other two helped him to lean on to us as we took him towards the hotel. Halfway through, we were alarmed when he said, he could not feel his wounded foot, and he said it was all the way up to his knee. We checked the area around the gash again. There was no blue or black coloring of the skin, which I thought would otherwise indicate some sort of venom or toxin.

The hotel had no medical officer. The staff at reception informed us that there was a clinic nearby, and that it would be open on public holidays too (November 4 was one). As my friend sat in the lobby, I rushed to the room to change from beachwear, grab car keys and some dry clothes for my wounded friend. The four of us drove-out frantically looking for that clinic. When we finally found it after driving back and forth in the area, it was closed. The cause for concern for all of us was the numbing feeling and the intense pain that my friend kept telling us about.

The hotel was between Cherating and Kuantan, approximately about 20km–25km each way. The decision to go to Kuantan was unanimous — it’s a larger town. Gunning towards Kuantan, the road was full of traffic and solitary lanes, making our journey frustratingly slow at times. Overtaking across double lines while flashing warning lights to oncoming vehicles ensued. Waiting for the bloody green at traffic signals seemed like an eternity. It was our first time in Kuantan for all of us, and so after numerous stop-overs and missing many turns, we finally reached a 24-hour hospital.

The doctor on-call gave him a few shots: tetanus, antibiotics, one for allergy, and a painkiller. She chose not to prescribe an antidote, since we were not sure what stung him. I later learned that toxin from some sea-creatures tend to have delayed-effects, and could cause allergies. Looking back now and reading a bit, he seemed to have many symptoms of a sting from stingray. After reaching Kuala Lumpur, the wound healed. He is now down with fever and infection, is being treated in a hospital, and is under observation for forty-eight hours.

I never thought isolated beaches would need a certain amount of caution before venturing into. Now, I’d beg to differ.